I am not a world-renowned authority on Turkish politics—far from it—, have so far read nothing serious or in-depth on yesterday’s election result—here are the numbers—, and haven’t yet spoken with anyone knowledgeable about it, but here’s my instant analysis anyway:
- French radio and TV (which is what I listen to/watch) have been calling it a victory for the AKP and Tayyip Erdoğan, which of course it is in an objective sense. It’s never bad for a ruling party to increase its percentage of the vote in a third straight victory. But the AKP still fell short of 50%, even if only by a sliver. Erdoğan was no doubt hoping to break the 50% barrier and he didn’t make it. Good.
- But what makes it not a real victory for the AKP is that it didn’t get the 330 seats necessary to send a revised constitution to a referendum. Turkey’s electoral system, with its 10% threshold, is working in interesting and paradoxical ways. Each time the AKP increases its share of the vote, it loses seats: 34% of the vote and 363 seats in 2002, 47% and 341 in 2007, and now 49.8% and 326.
- If Erdoğan wants to revise the constitution, he’ll have to get the support of the MHP, or maybe peel off some its deputies. The MHP, which was a neo-fascistic party until recently—nowadays it’s merely right-wing nationalist and not too far from the AKP in many respects—, may like the idea of a strong presidency but has no interest in Erdoğan or the AKP leading it. And after the pre-election sex scandals—likely an AKP put up job, to push the MHP under 10%—, it probably won’t be too eager to facilitate Erdoğan’s presidential ambitions.
- The principal explanation for the AKP increasing its share of the vote is the effective disappearance of the rest of the non-MHP right. The moderate conservative parties that governed Turkey since the 1950s—successively, the DP, AP, ANAP/ANAVATAN, DYP, DP again—are gone. The AKP had already become a big tent conservative party when it first won in 2002 and now the process is complete. The 10% threshold was the killer. Voters vote strategically. Given that the political gravity of Turkey has been on the right since the advent of multiparty politics after WWII—Turks are, in their majority, conservative, pious, and economically liberal (in the free market, pro-commerce sense)—there is not a chance that the CHP will win an election anytime in the foreseeable future, and no matter how social democratic it becomes. Left-wing Kemalism is a minority force in Turkey—albeit a significant one—and will remain that way.
- So if the AKP is going to be defeated in future elections, it will have to split or come apart (as may happen with the UMP, France’s big tent party of the right and center). But as long as the 10% threshold is there—and it’s not going anywhere, i.e. it’s not going to be modified—, the chances of this happening are not too great. Erdoğan will also make sure it doesn’t.
- As the AKP is more than an Islamist/Islamic party, the chances that Erdoğan & Co will try to push an overtly Islamist agenda are minimal. Apart from removing remaining restrictions on Islamic headscarves, further raising taxes on alcoholic beverages, and small time stuff like that, it’s hard to see how much further they can go in an Islamist direction. Sharia law will not come to Turkey, women will not be forced to veil, and rakı and beer will not be banned. It just won’t happen. Culturally speaking, Turkey is not the Arab world, nor is it Iran or Pakistan.
- Accession negotiations in Brussels will continue—as no one has an interest in them being formally broken off—but so long as the AKP in its present form remains in power, not to mention Erdoğan himself, the chances of Turkey joining the EU are not excellent, to put it mildly.
Now I will await the analyses of persons more knowledgeable than I, i.e. of real specialists. If I see anything particularly interesting, I’ll post it.